USF Sarasota-Manatee assists anti-bullying workshop

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 1, 2015) – The Sarasota County school district, Embracing Our Differences and other groups are teaming up for a three-day workshop this week at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee to help educators recognize and stop bullying.

The workshop, Wednesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., comes as more public school students nationally report incidents of bullying through social media, including vicious taunts that continue long after classes have ended, said Michael Shelton, Embracing Our Differences executive director.

“There are certainly a whole lot more ways to go about it (bullying) now because of the Internet and social media,” said Shelton, whose group stages an annual diversity-oriented art exhibit at Island Park in Sarasota and Riverwalk in Bradenton. “It can go from creating an unpleasant situation to kids actually killing themselves over it.”

A survey a year ago showed fear of bullying caused 13 percent of Sarasota County middle school students to skip school at least once and 10 percent of high school students to stay home. Meanwhile, 20 percent Sarasota middle schoolers and 15 percent of high schoolers reported being subjected to verbal bullying, Shelton said.

The three-day workshop, which arose out of past collaborations between the district and Embracing Our Differences, aims to help teachers recognize bullying and offer practical tips to stop it.

This year, USF Sarasota-Manatee offered space for the workshop and additional partners were recruited, including the Anti-Defamation League and a Brookline, Mass.,-based educational non-profit, Facing History and Ourselves. The Kates Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation provided funding.

“We’ve been focusing on bullying for the last several years. This just evolved out of that,” said Bernadette Bennett, program specialist for social studies for K-12 schools in Sarasota County.  “We may not be able to end bullying overnight, but we can look at what we can do stop it and provide resources for teachers.”

So far, 43 teaching professionals have confirmed their attendance, Shelton said. For more information, call (941) 404-5710 or visit embracingourdifferences.org.